I was sad to learn that Deacon Chiu, former ATV chairman and owner, had passed away this morning. He was 90.
I remember him as being the only ATV chairman who made the broadcaster profitable.
In 1989, he sold the company and since then, things have been going in the opposite direction.
These days, ATV struggles to find enough money to pay its staff on time.
That would have been a no-no for Chiu, who turned ATV into a golden franchise in the seven years to 1989 when it sold lucrative movie rights to China and broke TVB’s monopoly on beauty contests with its own Miss Asia Pageant.
Chiu, also the founder of Far East Consortium, was found unconscious on Tuesday in his home in Ting Kau.
He was brought to Yan Chai Hospital, which he co-founded in 1973, and was pronounced dead.
The Shanghai-born businessman came to Hong Kong in 1949 and joined Grand Theatre as a general staff.
Later, he found a way to make money by selling Hong Kong movie rights to Shanghai before branching out into banking (Far East Bank, which he later sold to Citibank), property, hotels and media.
One thing he will be remembered for is Song City, a replica of a Song Dynasty city in the Lai Chi Kok Amusement Park, the largest outdoor playground in Hong Kong until it was torn down in 1997 to make way for what is now Nob Hill residential development.
Chiu brought the fun of bumper cars and roller-coaster rides to Hong Kong, helping build childhood memories.
Which Hong Kong youth who grew up in Chiu’s time does not remember what it was like to win a Wrigley white arrow gum by throwing a 50-cent coin into a white square?
Later, Chiu brought more fun to Hong Kong people through television.
In the early 1980s, he sold his 10 percent stake in TVB to buy a controlling stake in a company called Rediffusion from an Australian consortium. He named it ATV.
Chiu and his successor, Lim Por-yen, were notorious penny-pinchers.
Lim was known to eat fish-o-fillet for lunch while Chiu skimped on toilet paper, telling staff to limit its use.
But it was his business acumen that made him successful in the television business and in other ventures.
In 1972, Chiu listed Far East Consortium and spun off Far East Hotel seven years later.
The two property companies were not the busiest players in the market. They became even less active after Chiu was convicted of financial wrongdoing in 1988.
He was spared further legal troubles because of his Alzheimer’s disease.
Along with Sir Run Run Shaw, Chiu was an iconic figure in the local entertainment business which reached its pinnacle in the 1980s.
Like many of their business peers, Sir Run Run and Chiu lived long enough to bear witness to the Hong Kong story for the best part of a century.
They may be gone but their legacies endure.
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